Another founding member of CASI, Ron Harben, former field officer for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, also spoke at the event.

"Jeff's enthusiasm is contagious,” Harben said, "but it's solidly backed up with knowledge, experience and the real desire to bring sustainability – both economic and environmental – to agriculture.”

Mitchell travels in the Valley extensively, visits farms from Kern County to as far north as the Intermountain area on the border with Oregon, and takes two or three trips from his Fresno County headquarters to Davis each week for meetings, teaching classes and working with graduate students.

"His Toyota Prius has nearly half a million miles on it,” Harben said.

During his presentation at the celebration, Mitchell also called attention to the Giacomazzi Dairy's weathered water tower.

"Think about that. There is something quite profound here,” he said. "There is no better example of sustainability. This is where sustainability is happening. This is the real thing.”

The Sand County Foundation, its major partners, California Farm Bureau Federation and Sustainable Conservation, and its other sponsors, S. J. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and Farm Credit, are accepting nominations for the 2013 Leopold Conservation Award until July 12. Nominations of agriculturalists and foresters may be submitted at the Leopold Conservation Award website,

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